Elephants Have Names For Each Other Just Like Humans

Scientists have found that wild African elephants use names to address each other, much like humans. This rare behaviour among nonhuman animals was revealed in a study conducted by Colorado State University (CSU) and published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. Researchers employed machine learning to confirm that elephant calls include a name-like component to identify the intended recipient. Elephants responded positively to calls addressed to them, either by calling back or approaching the source, while calls meant for others were largely ignored. “Dolphins and parrots call one another by 'name' by imitating the signature call of the addressee,” said lead author Michael Pardo. “By contrast, our data suggests that elephants do not rely on imitation of the receiver's calls to address one another, which is more similar to the way in which human names work” . Researchers recorded about 470 distinct calls from 101 elephants, corresponding with 117 unique receivers in Samburu National Reserve and Amboseli National Park. Elephants, like humans, have evolved in socially complex environments, driving the development of sophisticated communication systems. Co-author George Wittemyer added: "It's probably a case where we have similar pressures, largely from complex social interactions…“That's one of the exciting things about this study, it gives us some insight into possible drivers of why we evolved these abilities.” Improved communication with these intelligent animals could potentially aid in their protection - as it will enable scientists to warn them of danger.